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Good intentions poor follow through: how do you deal with it?

free sample addict aka Tracy L May 16, 2007 08:38 PM

One of the major sections of the remodel is almost finished and I'd love to have a couple of summer parties. The groups of people I hang out with love to cook so making everything myself is out of the question. We've had some great dinner parties because it seems like everyone is very inspired foodwise and they always bring amazing food. Unfortunately, two friends from different circles have become unreliable. At first it was simple things like not making enough salad or substituting rice milk for regular milk in a bechamel sauce. I have noticed over the past year they both have become worse. I don't want to ban these people from parties but I do have qualms about relying on them to follow through. Do I give them simple tasks like bringing something from a bakery? Should I offer to coach them through their preparation of their contributions? Should I prepare a standby dish just in case I need to fill the gap they have created? Or should I leave the subject alone altogether and not be such a control freak? Any opinions are welcome.

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  1. amandine RE: free sample addict aka Tracy L May 16, 2007 08:58 PM

    Ooh, whatever you do, DON'T offer to coach, especially with people who love to cook. Because that's like saying you don't think their cooking is all that great, which may be true but not nice to say to a friend, much less your *guest*.

    How about asking them what they would most like to bring? Maybe the past issues were more because they didn't know how to handle their assignment. Or if they did pick those disasters in the past, in your hostesshood count their future contributions as half. (i.e. if they make salad, make/buy another yourself to make sure your party is covered)

    But above all, keep in mind that the best cooking parties are about the people. Invite people whose company you enjoy. Quietly fill in for your guests when they come up short to make sure that everyone feels welcome, appreciated and happy.

    And if you really don't like what others are cooking despite their best intentions, invite people for an explicit dinner party, your treat. i.e make placecards, tell people to arrive 7:30 pm sharp and prepare and plate the food yourself.

    1. s
      Sherri RE: free sample addict aka Tracy L May 16, 2007 10:17 PM

      Can you find out what they do well and have them major in that? Coaching should be left to those who seek a coach -- in other words, don't offer. Can they buy/bring wine? That one is easy to cover with a backup if it is truly terrible.

      Sometimes, you have to bite the bullet and enjoy friends for what they do well and not how well they cook. As my sainted grandmother used to remind me, "everyone chooses one room of the house in which to excell." Maybe your friends didn't choose the kitchen.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Sherri
        ccbweb RE: Sherri May 17, 2007 12:56 AM

        All basically the right ideas here I think. The "have a backup" plan is a very good one. If you ask one of them to bring a salad, get some bags of greens or a large container or mesclun to have stashed in the fridge, just in case. That sort of thing. As mojo says, leave it be, but plan accordingly.

        1. re: Sherri
          free sample addict aka Tracy L RE: Sherri May 17, 2007 08:48 PM

          They choose their own dishes and have asked for my input on preparation. One of the friends two bugged me for days on finger sandwich ideas and prep and ended up bringing frozen mini quiches instead.

          I like the rooms of the house analogy. It keeps the whole thing in perspective.

          1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L
            j
            julesrules RE: free sample addict aka Tracy L May 18, 2007 07:09 AM

            Hmm, we had a similar situation recently where someone was assigned to bring fruit salad for a shower, asked for the recipe... then brought a (very ordinary) purchased fruit plate. I was not surprised knowing that to her, the fruit plate was the same thing - or even better, because she spent money on it. But the organizer was surprised, and pissed off. She really wanted that particular fruit salad for this event, and those kinds of details are important to her.

            I felt stuck in the middle because I saw the whole situation coming, and I understand both points of view.

            So I think you can make the suggestion, answer the questions, etc... but you really can't control the results. And it's not worth getting upset about. Let others make their comments, maybe they'll sink in with the perpetrators - but you're not responsible for either side's happiness.

            Although I wonder if the quiche person might be neurotic/insecure about the food prep? If their questions annoy you (it would annoy me if I suspected the end result would be frozen quiche!), just brush them off "oh bring whatever you like, it'll be fine, we just want to see you!" etc.

          2. re: Sherri
            p
            Papuli RE: Sherri May 18, 2007 11:42 AM

            Whew, your grandmother was spicy! I like it.

            On topic, asking people to bring wine is a great solution.

          3. m
            mojoeater RE: free sample addict aka Tracy L May 16, 2007 10:47 PM

            I'd say leave it alone. They are your friends and they love to cook, so let them. If you can ask them to bring simpler additions to the party, that might work. But if you do it every time they'll know something is up. It's a party and is all about friendship and fun. If one or two dishes aren't great, big deal.

            1. w
              wayne keyser RE: free sample addict aka Tracy L May 17, 2007 07:04 PM

              Tough problem.

              One question - when they use "rice milk in the bechamel" (or something similar) do other guests notice the lessened quality?

              When they start using "Egg Beaters," ditch 'em - life's too short to eat Egg Beaters. Or rice milk, for that matter.

              8 Replies
              1. re: wayne keyser
                free sample addict aka Tracy L RE: wayne keyser May 17, 2007 08:39 PM

                The rice milk sub was noticable because the other entree was a lot better. Other friends have started noticing my friend's lack of follow through. We tend to plan around each others contributions and when she gets all hot and heavy about making a beet salad but brings a vegetable side dish instead I sense others are somewhat disappointed. One friend even said 'oh, if I knew, I would have made the salad instead'.

                1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L
                  m
                  mojoeater RE: free sample addict aka Tracy L May 17, 2007 08:45 PM

                  How about sending out an email the day before/day of event that details the menu according to who is bringing what. Therefore, if friend A has said he/she will bring beet salad, he/she will know what everyone is expecting and will cook/prepare accordingly.

                  1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L
                    hrhboo RE: free sample addict aka Tracy L May 17, 2007 09:39 PM

                    It sounds like your gatherings are more about the food than the people! These are your friends, people you choose to invite to your home and spend time with. Presumably, you care about these people and enjoy their company. Does it really matter if their entree wasn't as good as the other one or they brought a vegetable dish instead of a beet salad?

                    I am more food obsessed than anyone I know, but at the end of the day it's the friendships that count more than anything else.

                    1. re: hrhboo
                      e
                      Ellen RE: hrhboo May 18, 2007 07:18 AM

                      Ditto. The only way to control the food that comes into your house is to make it all yourself. That is your other option.

                      1. re: Ellen
                        r
                        rednails RE: Ellen May 18, 2007 08:29 AM

                        Ditto to you and hrhboo.

                        And to Wayne Keyser ("When they start using "Egg Beaters," ditch 'em - life's too short to eat Egg Beaters. Or rice milk, for that matter."): I pray that you never have health/dietary problems that require you to make ingredient substitutions. My brother has had kidney stones for over 35 years, and has to limit the amount of calcium, so no real milk for him . I have my own issues, so egg beaters are a must.

                        For me, entertaining is all about friends and the joy I get from opening my home to them. When it becomes more about the food, then I'll treat them to a great meal in a restaurant.

                      2. re: hrhboo
                        free sample addict aka Tracy L RE: hrhboo May 19, 2007 10:01 PM

                        No hrhboo the gatherings are about the people, I wouldn't be contemplating having a party in the first place if people didn't mattered. These are just two people out of a few dozen people.

                        1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L
                          l
                          LAfoodfiend RE: free sample addict aka Tracy L May 19, 2007 10:30 PM

                          So what you are basically saying is that you have an issue with the way these 2 people deal with food-related aspects of your gathering - i.e they don't bring "amazing food" like everyone else. I guess your only options are to accept that their dishes won't be the best (which shouldn't matter too much since you call them your friends and it shouldn't be all about the food), or if you can't look past this then you shouldn't invite them.

                          1. re: free sample addict aka Tracy L
                            hrhboo RE: free sample addict aka Tracy L May 19, 2007 10:33 PM

                            I was referring to those two people, not the whole bunch. If you like them enough to call them your friends then the fact that they sub rice milk shouldn't even be an issue.

                    2. b
                      boltnut55 RE: free sample addict aka Tracy L May 18, 2007 11:42 PM

                      Do you think these couple of people love hanging out with you and your friends but don't really love food the way you all do in the same way you do? My friends don't have expectations of me like that, but I can see myself totally as a person who would do some of the things mentioned because on the flip side, I'm happy that people are bringing food to my house, so I assume others are too without worrying about what the results are. Happy as in I don't have to do the cooking, and they are reliable enough to bring something similar to what they promised rather than completely change (my friends are flaky; maybe I don't care that much). Just wondering (about my first sentence).

                      In one example above regarding the fruit salad, I can see myself doing the same thing. I don't want to be stressed out with "should I try out the recipe and have it not work out and either have it taste bad or I throw it all out and waste money" or "should I just buy it?" I bet in the end I would just buy it, even though I asked for the recipe. I really would not have thought anything of it (such as disappointing the organizer, obligating myself to make it because I asked for the recipe).

                      1. sarahvagaca RE: free sample addict aka Tracy L May 19, 2007 12:05 AM

                        It completely depends on the people and your relationship with them--only you know what you can get away with without causing hurt feelings. Among my friends, there are a few who are happy to be assigned beer and ice or some other pick-up-at-the-store item as opposed to something they have to make. There are others who we don't necessarily have the most faith in but who we know will be hurt/offended if not allowed the chance to make something like everyone else. In those cases, I usually let them do what they want and accept that there might be one dish that's not a favorite. I'd rather that than risk hurting a friend. Sometimes I can compromise by having them make an appetizer, side dish or some other non-crucial item. Also, if they have success with a specific item, I push that--"Oh, you have to bring your famous hummus! Our party wouldn't be the same without it!" Then they feel good and you know they're making something they can handle.

                        These situations can be frustrating--I made a delicious (if I do say so myself!) homemade hot fudge sauce and gave a friend the job of bringing vanilla ice cream. He's a tricky one, as we've addressed here, so I thought it would be a safe bet. Oh no. He brought two big containers of fat free/sugar free "ice cream"!!! ??? Gross!!!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: sarahvagaca
                          ccbweb RE: sarahvagaca May 19, 2007 10:58 AM

                          I think that's a great example of exactly how hard all of this is. Its easy for me to imagine a place where the fat free/sugar free would have been well received and people would have fallen on it for the perceived guilt free dessert.

                          I think the general rule for this sort of thing is: if you can think of anything the person would bring that would fall short of what you want, then don't leave it to chance and do it yourself. Everyone will have a better time.

                        2. h
                          HillJ RE: free sample addict aka Tracy L May 19, 2007 11:50 AM

                          free, the thing about controlling all the party elements is that we strong personality types tend to think we can't give control and empower our guests right along with us. Communicate what the party plans are all about, involve EVERYONE and you are more likely to have a good time all around.

                          My mother often says that we fool no one when we don't use our words, actions speak just as loud. So talk to your friends because chances are good that if you don't your body language and facial expressions will speak for you.

                          Have a great party!

                          1. free sample addict aka Tracy L RE: free sample addict aka Tracy L May 19, 2007 10:24 PM

                            Thanks for all the advice. I pretty much leave the menu planning up to my friends. If I am invited to a friends house I usually wait till a few people have volunteered to bring their specialty before committing to a dish. At home I generally make an entree and 'assign' others to general categories such as salads, appetizers, desserts etc. then I fill in the gaps where needed. I think I'll cope with the two friends on a party by party basis. I'll suggest bakery goods (they both live near great bakeries) on certain ocassions and make a second salad or app on other occasions just in case the don't follow through.

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